An Excerpt from Entryway to the Dharma, pt 3

Written in 1167 C.E. by Lopön Rinpoche Sönam Tsemo

Translated in Jeffrey Schoening's Classical Literary Tibetan Class

with Jeff Bennett, Tom Linder, and Bill Sternhagen

(Continued from the previous issue of Sakya Chronicles, which presented deeds three and four of the Buddha: Skill in Crafts and Taking a Consort and The Great Departure)


The Fifth Deed: Austerities

     Then, the Bodhisattva went to the place (of the brahman woman) Śākī (Rigs ldan)[1] for alms.  Similarly, he went to the place (of the brahman woman) Padmā (Padmo).  He went to the place (of the Brahma worshipper) Raivata (Nam gru).  Rājaka (‘Od ldan) invited him as a guest.[2]  Then, at Vaiśālī there was one who dwelled in meditation called Ārāḍa-Kālāma.  Because (the Bodhisattva) requested the Dharma from him, he was told, “Do 'nothing whatsoever' meditation.”  Because the Bodhisattva had sharper faculties, he realized (the meditation) without impediment.  “Now what do you teach?”  (Ārāḍa) replied: Nothing at all.

     Then the Bodhisattva went to Pāṇḍava mountain in Rājagṛhā and accepted alms from king Bimbisāra.  The king, having faith because the Bodhisattva was adorned with (holy) marks, paid homage, and offered him his kingdom.  The Bodhisattva said: I put aside a kingdom and was ordained.  (The king) asked: Who are your parents?  He replied: King Śuddhodana.  (The king) said:  He is my teaching master; I beg to ask to obtain the nectar of your dharma.  Thus saying, he offered (the Bodhisattva) alms.

     Then, in that very Rājagṛhā was Udraka Rāmaputra.  He is one who abides in meditation.  Because (the Bodhisattva) requested instructions from him, he instructed, “Do ‘without cognition yet not without cognition’ meditation.”  (The Bodhisattva) asked: Who instructed you?  Udraka Rāmaputra replied: I have no teaching master at all.  Because he was instructed there by him, (the Bodhisattva) quickly made (the meditation state) manifest.  (The Bodhisattva asked:) Now what do you teach?  He replied: I have only this much.  Thinking that that is not complete purity, (the Bodhisattva) then departed.

     At that time, a group of five ascetics followed after the Bodhisattva: 1) Ājñāya (All-knowing) Kauṇḍinya; 2) Aśvajita; 3) Vāṣpa; 4) Mahānāma; and 5) Bhadrika.  Together with them (the Bodhisattva) went to the summit of Gayā mountain.  There he took to heart the three teachings beginning with the separation from desires.[3]

     Then he went to the town Uruvilva (Lteng rgyas).  At that time, because there were many ascetics such as reciters of praises and many false refuges, in order to take them under his care and in order to purify the obscurations of voice from the time of the Buddha Kāśyapa, relying on the meditation “pervading space,” he performed the austerity of not eating anything at all for six years.  He had no protection such as clothing for the body.  He became like the color of a madgura[4] fish.  Although harassed by cow herders, he did not move.  Even Māra could not harm him.


Delighting in the temporary experience (nyams[5]) of isolation,

to the east of Uruvilva,

at the river Nairāñjanā,

I shall strive for the sake of abandoning (faults).


So [the Bodhisattva] said.

     Then, seeing that asceticism has no essence, in order to refute those who grasp at purity through asceticism, he vowed to eat substantial food.  At that time this group of five lost their faith, (saying), “Eating in great laxity, (he) is fallen from asceticism,” they went to the region of Vāraṇāsi.[6]

     Then, the Bodhisattva, having taken a loincloth, covered his loins.  Then, the gods offered saffron-colored robes and washed his body; having put on the clothes, he had the appearance of a śrāmaṇa (= monastic).  At that time, because the Bodhisattva’s form was beautiful, he was called, “the beautiful monastic.”

     Also at that time, the gods commended Sujātā, daughter of a farmer, saying, “Tomorrow, you will give sustenance to a monastic and it will be beneficial to you.”  When day broke, she prepared cooked rice with milk and because she sent (a female servant) to seek a guest, having spotted the Bodhisattva, the female servant said: A beautiful monastic has appeared.  Sujātā said: Call him.  When she called him, Sujātā presented him (the food) in a golden receptacle.  He said, “I do not need the container.”  Because she said, “I will offer it as a gift,” he took it and went to an island in the river.  There he sat upon the nāga-prepared throne, consumed the milk, and tossed the bowl into the water; the gods took it.

                   By that his faculites were strengthened and all his marks and signs became clear.

                   That is the Fifth Deed.


The Sixth Deed: Subduing Māra

      Then the Bodhisattva intended to go to the seat of awakening (bodhimaṇḍa).  The gods adorned the entire path to there.  When he went, light came from his body, and the beings touched by that were freed from suffering.

     Also, when he thought to stay on one seat and to become enlightened, he knew that previous buddhas sat on a seat of grass; on the right side of the path, he begged a grass merchant for cut auspicious grass, saying:

 Quickly give to me auspicious grass. 

Today giving me grass will be a great benefit.

Having defeated Māra and his host,

I will attain the holy awakening, peace.


He gave (the Bodhisattva) an armful of kusha grass, blue like the throat of a peacock.

     At the seat of awakening, after pointing the grass peaks inward and the grass roots outward, laying them out without disturbance, he circumambulated the tree of awakening seven times and sat cross-legged.  The gods of the awakening tree each prepared precious thrones and (he) sat on them.  Inferior (dman mos) beings saw that he sat on the grass.

     Then he made this vow, saying:


Though on this seat this body of mine were dessicated, it’s ok.

Even were the skin and heap of bones destroyed,

So long as I have not obtained awakening, difficult to obtain over many eons.

I will not move the body from this seat.


     In addition, the Bodhisattva sent out light rays from the point between the eyebrows, illuminating all the buddhafields.  Then, the bodhisattvas worshipped the Bodhisattva.  Again, he emitted from between the eyebrows a light that goaded Māra and dimmed all the places of Māra.  A sound like a cymbal sounded.  (Māra) had thirty-two nightmares such as his god of desire weeping.  Also, there were stanzas such as this:


A very pure sentient being, practiced in training for many eons,

Son of Śuddhodana, having renounced kingdoms,

Left home to benefit (others) and out of desire for nectar

Has come to the Bodhi tree, thus today you must focus, (Māra).


     Then, Māra Garap Wangchuk who shatters minds through the mere seeing of his extremely fearful army of demons -- illusory mindless (apparitions):

Red-faced and yellow-bodied,

red-bodied and yellow-faced,

One-headed, two-headed, three-headed,

on up to a ten billion-headed, extremely plentiful,


and the thirty billion strong army of fearsome weapon-wielders arrived where the Bodhisattva was.

     To the right of those were those having faith and motivated interest in the buddha.  On the left were arrayed those dark-side demons.  Also, at that time, the dark-side demons said: This one is alone; thus there is no obstacle for us whom are many to overcome (him).  The demons who had faith in the buddha said:


On this earth, the lion and

the Ruler with a Wheel do not make friends.

Having fixed on awakening,

the bodhisattva who entered [on the path] does not need friends.


So they debated back and forth.

     Although it was like that, the king of demons caused, through the power of incitement, a rain of weapons to fall on the Bodhisattva.  They became bundles of flowers and remained in the sky above.  Again the king of the demons spoke to the Bodhisattva, saying such things as: Hey, get up!  Run the kingdom!  The Bodhisattva replied: Because you gathered the accumulation, you were born in the demon realm.  I gathered unfathomable accumulations more than you, thus I have entered the homeless life (mngon par ‘byung bar byed).  (Māra) replied: If you are the witness of my fulfilling the accumulations, who is your witness of fulfilling the accumulations?  Placing his right hand on the earth, the [Bodhisattva] said:


This earth is the support of all mobile and immobile beings,

Thus, Stable One, be my witness today.


When he said that, the earth goddess Stable One (Brtan ma; Sthāvarā or Dṛḍhā) arose and said, “Because this one fulfilled the accumulations without number, you are not able to be an obstacle,” so the demon of despair (yi chad) together with the army of sympathizing (gtsang ma’i ris) demons were repulsed.


The King of the Śākyas, having realized the teaching

of dependent arising, essential nature of no-thing,

Well-endowed with a mind like space,

is not trampled by the crafty one with his host.


So at that time the tree god voiced praises.  Māra was defeated. 

This completes the Sixth Deed of the Bodhisattva.


[1]     See Edgerton, BHSD, 525, under Śākī for discussion of Tibetan name Rigs ldan.

[2]     I am not familiar with the story of the four people and the text does not describe them.   The Lalitavistara (ACIP, 192a) in Tibetan and online Sanskrit version (, ch. 16, paragraph 4, give a little additonal information, saying Rājaka ('Od ldan) has the patronym of Datṛmadaṇḍikaputra (Gdul ba'i be con can gyi bu = “Son of one who has a stick for discipline”).  See Edgerton, BHSD, 261, under Dattrima-daṇḍika-putra.

[3]     For a canonical source of this passage, see Lalitavistara (ACIP, 198b5-200a5) in Tibetan and online Sanskrit version (, ch. 17, paragraphs 12-14.  Edward J. Thomas, The Life of the Buddha, p. 64, summarizes the Lalitavistara passage:  The account of the strivings is introduced by three similes which then occurred to Gotama.  That of a man trying to kindle fire by rubbing a fire-stick on wet green wood plunged in water.  He can get no fire, and like him are the ascetics whose passions are not calmed.  Whether they experience sudden, sharp, keen, and severe pains or not, they cannot attain knolwedge and enlightenment.  So it is in the second case, if a man rubs a fire-stick on wet green wood, even if it is out of the water.  In the third case he takes dry wood and can kindle fire. Even so ascetics who are removed from passion, in whom the passions are abandoned and calmed, may possibly attain knowledge and enlightenment.       

[4]     Monier-Williams: Madgura, m. a species of fish, Macropteronatus Magur, Lalit.

[5]     Illuminator: Nyams = I. <noun> "Temporary experience".  When one practices meditation, various experiences might occur because of the meditation.  These experiences are due to the practice of the path but are not the final result, they are not the end-realization.  Because they are not realization, they are not stable and pass away; they are temporary experiences of the path.  The distinction between go rtogs intellectual understanding, nyams temporary experience, and rtogs realization was clarified by Padmasaṃbhava who said,

                                "Intellectual understanding patch-like drops and goes;

                                Temporary experience mist-like dissolves and goes;

                                Realization, unchanging is permanent."

[6]     Bu ston (96) has Vā ra ṇā si in place of ‘Khor mo ‘jig, indicating their equivalence.


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